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SEE, as the prettiest graves will do in time,
Our poet's wants the freshness of its prime;
Spite of the sexton's browsing horse, the sods
Have struggled through its binding osier rods;
Headstone and half-sunk footstone lean awry,
Wanting the brick-work promised by-and-by;
How the minute grey lichens, plate o'er plate,
Have softened down the crisp-cut name and date !
So, the year 's done with !
(Love me for ever!)
All March begun with,
May-wreaths that bound me
June needs must sever;
Now snows fall round me,
Quenching June's fever-
(Love me for ever )
I SAID— Then, dearest, since 't is so,
Since now at length my fate I know,
Since nothing all my love avails,
Since all, my life seemed meant for, fails,
Since this was written and needs must be-
My whole heart rises up to bless
Your name in pride and thankfulness !
Take back the hope you gave,-I claim
Only a memory of the same,
-And this beside, if you will not blame,
Your leave for one more last ride with me.
My mistress bent that brow of hers;
Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs
When pity would be softening through,
Fixed me a breathing-while or two
With life or death in the balance: right !
The blood replenished me again;
My last thought was at least not vain :
I and my mistress, side by side
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
So, one day more am I deified.
Who knows but the world may end to-night?
Hush ! if you saw some western cloud
All billowy-bosomed, over-bowed
By many benedictions—sun's
And moon's and evening-star's at once-
And so, you, looking and loving best,
Conscious grew, your passion drew
Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star-shine too,
Down on you, near and yet more near,
Till flesh must fade for heaven was here !
Thus leant she and lingered—joy and fear
Thus lay she a moment on my breast.
Then we began to ride. My soul
Smoothed itself out, a long-cramped scroll
Freshening and fluttering in the wind.
Past hopes already lay behind.
What need to strive with a life awry?
Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss.
Might she have loved me? just as well
She might have hated, who can tell !
Where had I been now if the worst befell?
And here we are riding, she and I.
Fail I alone, in words and deeds ? '
Why, all men strive and who succeeds ?
We rode; it seemed my spirit flew,
Saw other regions, cities new,
As the world rushed by on either side. I thought,—All labour, yet no less Bear up beneath their unsuccess. Look at the end of work, contrast The petty done, the undone vast, This present of theirs with the hopeful past !
I hoped she would love me; here we ride.
What hand and brain went ever paired? What heart alike conceived and dared ? What act proved all its thought had been ? What will but felt the fleshy screen?
We ride and I see her bosom heave. There 's many a crown for who can reach. Ten lines, a statesman's life in each ! The flag stuck on a heap of bones, A soldier's doing! what atones ? They scratch his name on the Abbey-stones.
My riding is better, by their leave.
What does it all mean, poet ? Well,
Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell
What we felt only ; you expressed
You hold things beautiful the best,
And pace them in rhyme so, side by side. 'T is something, nay 't is much : but then, Have you yourself what 's best for men ? Are you—poor, sick, old ere your timeNearer one whit your own sublime
Than we who have never turned a rhyme ?
Sing, riding 's a joy! For me, I ride.
And you, great sculptor-so, you gave
A score of years to Art, her slave,
And that 's your Venus, whence we turn
To yonder girl that fords the burn!
You acquiesce, and shall I repine ?
What, man of music, you grown grey
With notes and nothing else to say,
Is this your sole praise from a friend,
“ Greatly his opera's strains intend,
“ But in music we know how fashions end !"
I gave my youth ; but we ride, in fine.
Who knows what 's fit for us? Had fate
Proposed bliss here should sublimate
My being—had I signed the bond-
Still one must lead some life beyond,
Have a bliss to die with, dim-descried.
This foot once planted on the goal,
This glory-garland round my soul,
Could I descry such ? Try and test !
I sink back shuddering from the quest.
Earth being so good, would heaven seem best?
"Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.
And yet—she has not spoke so long !
What if heaven be that, fair and strong